Friday, July 11, 2008

Terror Camps Proliferate In Pakistan Financed By Opium Production

The next President is going to face severe national security challenges on numerous fronts, not the least of which will be nuclear armed and, in part, terrorist occupied Pakistan. The ineffectual actions of the Pakistani government are allowing terrorists to flourish. They are fueled by huge sums of money from the drug trade - which suggests that the drug eradication program being tried in Afghanistan is equally ineffectual. It is only a matter of time before this matter has to be dealt with, either by Pakistan or by NATO.

This from Bill Roggio at the LWJ:

Al Qaeda continues to grow its network and expand its capabilities in northwestern Pakistan, US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. The peace agreements have given the Taliban and al Qaeda time and space to reestablish their networks, which pose a threat not only to Pakistan, but the West as well.

Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied terrorists groups, collectively called al Qaeda and allied movements, or AQAM, by some in US military and intelligence circles, has set up a series of camps throughout the tribal areas and in the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. "More than 100" terror camps of varying sizes and types are currently in operation in the region, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. As of the summer of 2007, 29 terror camps were known to be operating in North and South Waziristan alone.

Some camps are devoted to training the Taliban's military arm, some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups, some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West, and one serves as a training ground the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. A US Special Forces raid against the Black Guard camp in Danda Saidgai in North Waziristan, Pakistan in March 2006 resulted in the death of Imam Asad and several dozen members of the Black Guard. Asad was the camp commander, a senior Chechen al Qaeda commander, and associate of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen al Qaeda leader killed by Russian security forces in July 2006.

The growth in the number of camps US intelligence officials said Pakistan is outpacing Iraq as the destination for recruits, The New York Times reported earlier this week. Iraq is now seen as a lost cause by jihadists while Pakistan is now seen as al Qaeda's main effort. Recruits from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East are heading to Pakistan.

Al Qaeda has also reformed Brigade 055, the infamous military arm of the terror group made up of Arab recruits. The unit is thought to be commanded by Shaikh Khalid Habib al Shami. Brigade 055 fought alongside the Taliban against the Northern Alliance and was decimated during the US invasion of Afghanistan. Several other Arab brigades have been formed, some consisting of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards, an intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

. . . The deteriorating situation in Pakistan's tribal agencies is highlighted by the increased incidences of cross border attacks over the past several months. Today, 11 Pakistanis, including nine soldiers, were wounded in an attack launched from Afghanistan into the lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan.

. . . Afghan and Coalition forces have fought a series battles with the Taliban along the ill-defined border as Taliban have been attempting to overrun military bases and district centers in the region. US and Afghan forces have killed more than 200 Taliban fighters in the lopsided battles. Many of the Taliban attacks have been launched from inside North and South Waziristan in Pakistan.

. . . The security situation in Pakistan's tribal agencies has spiraled downward since the government negotiated peace agreements with the Taliban in North and South Waziristan in 2006 and throughout early 2007. The agreements gave the Taliban and al Qaeda time and space to consolidate their hold in the tribal areas and in some settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. The Taliban renewed their efforts to destabilize the Afghan government and boldly conducted a series of military attacks in Northwestern Pakistan and a bloody suicide campaign in the major cities.

The new Pakistani government has reinitiated peace negotiations with the Taliban in the northwest. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, and Khyber. Negotiations are under way in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.

Read the entire article. As to the financing of the terrorists, it is coming from nearly $150 billion dollar drug trade arising out of opium production in the region. This from AKI:

Opium cultivation is the prime source of income for the Taliban and enables the militants to buy arms for their insurgency against the Afghan government.

But they rely on an efficient distribution system and regional experts believe that senior Afghan officials are colluding with the Taliban for their own gain.

Zaid Hamid, security expert and head of the Pakistani think-tank, BrassTacks, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that several players were involved in the game of drug trafficking and the collusion of Afghan officials was crucial.

"The total drug economy of Afghanistan is estimated to be 150 billion dollars out of which only one billion dollars returns to Afghanistan," Zaid Hamid told AKI.

"The rest is laundered through the international banking system which indicates that several other players are involved in the game of drug trafficking and the receipts to the Afghan insurgency are very small."

Hamid said that Russian and Chinese anti-narcotics forces had recently told their colleagues in Pakistan that the flow of drugs from Afghanistan into their respective countries had reached a crisis.

"They are facing a crisis-like situation," he told AKI. "The figures provided to Pakistan suggested the majority of the drug smuggling is taking place through northern corridors (a non Taliban area)".

"These routes linked Afghanistan to Central Asian states, Afghanistan to Russia and from the Afghan province of Badakshan to Tajikistan and to China. The third route is coming from Afghanistan to Pakistan to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) through the Arabian Sea.

"With this course, the receipts of money coming back to Afghanistan is very small, according to notes given by the Russians to Pakistan."

. . . Various statistics confirmed the claim that several players are involved in the game of drug trafficking beside the Taliban.

Gul endorsed British media reports that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the current Afghan president was involved in the drug trade.

"Everybody in Afghanistan and Pakistan knows that the powerful person in the distribution of drugs is Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Hamid Karzai," Gul told AKI.

Hamid Gul's claims can be substantiated through many accounts that the Taliban is the base of this trade but the cartel is far complex.

Nevertheless, the real issue is still not the local farmers whose fields are in remote villages only but the distribution networks in which a strong cartel involving the Afghan government is involved.

A senior official working for the British Government's office in the province of Helmand, seconded to the anti-narcotics mission, told AKI that the poppies are cultivated mostly in the districts controlled by the Taliban like Bagran, Musa Qala, Nawzad and Sangeen.

He said from Laskhar Gah, the capital of Helmand, the crops are transported with the collaboration of the police and the local administration and then goes deep inside to the Garmser district from where it reaches to Pakistan and then through Arabian Sea it is distributed through various markets.

Read the entire article.

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